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#1 2019-11-26 18:31:06

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2351
Website

"just a drop in the hat" < "just a drop in the bucket"

I have a half-dozen or so of these, gathered over the years, but I don’t think it’s on our site yet (this and other discussions are relevant.) Most of the time it’s an idiom blend rather than an eggcorn: The malaphor site (malaphors being defined as “Unintentional blended idioms and phrases”) says:

This may be the mother of all malaphors, given the amount of hits on google where writers unintentionally use this blended idiom when they meant to say “drop in the bucket”.

The version I heard at church day before yesterday was particularly apt in its context:

Fifty years? In the light of eternity, that’s just a drop in the hat!

(Unfortunately, I am not clear sure if the person said “a hat” or “the hat”. I am pretty sure that it was “in” not “of”.)
.
At the drop of a/the hat is an interesting combination, for me at least, of two meanings that often go together, the meaning “(with)in an instant of time”, which fits the etymological idea that the hat dropping is the signal for a race to start, and “with negligible provocation” (since a hat dropping, in and of itself, is nothing to get excited about.)
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To the extent that “at the drop of a hat” means the former, an instant of time, both component phrases fit the context: compared to (semp)eternity, 50 years is a very small amount (a drop in a bucket) and it is only an instant (the drop of a hat). (In other contexts, it is quite a long time.) To that extent we get closer here to one of Kem’s “scrambled eggcorns” (suggested in the above-linked sequence of posts).
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(Fwiw, the converse blend I reported in the same post-sequence, namely I cry at the drop of a bucket , also has its contextual appropriateness: “I cry at the drop of a hat” is doubtless what the person intended, but a bucket dropping is likely to make a sudden, loud and quite disconcerting sound which is more likely than the sound of a dropped hat to induce susceptible people to cry, yet still might be described as being a rather slight provocation, surprising enough to comment on.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2019-12-02 09:01:44)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#2 2019-12-01 12:34:38

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 1051

Re: "just a drop in the hat" < "just a drop in the bucket"

David,
why choose one when you can have both? I imagined that these examples were deliberate wordplay but as I can’t see any point I’m beginning to wonder…

Any child of the ‘90s can name, at the drop of a bucket hat, the most popular trends we loved and adored and would probably still abide by if …

As the drug-addled heart and soul of Sublime, Nowell could transition from sweet to sort of sinister at the drop of a bucket hat; his presence lent …

Grateful for a brother who never fails to fly across the world at the drop of a bucket hat.

Considering how Sabrina switches languages at the drop of a bucket hat, dubbing would be Difficult, I feel.

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#3 2019-12-02 10:11:29

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2351
Website

Re: "just a drop in the hat" < "just a drop in the bucket"

Apparently a bucket hat is a real thing : Basically a soft fabric hat with the 2-3” brim turned down. If dropped it might make even less commotion than other kinds of hats. So maybe people are trying to be clever about the type of hat you would drop. Like you, I don’t really see the point, though.
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I was noticing among the example sentences a couple of other, somewhat related, idiomatic contexts where buckets and hats are in some degree interchangeable, namely those of randomly drawing a name or number out of a hat or bucket, and that of a magician or other person drawing or pulling something surprising out of a hat or (less often) a bucket.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2019-12-03 19:38:38)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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